How do you balance community?
Wow! Today is my 49th birthday, which means that I have successfully navigated my way around the sun on this little experiment we call planet Earth 49 times in a row. I am at the end of 7 cycles of 7. The rest of my journey is unwritten. This is always the time when I take my deep personal inventory; where have I been, where am I going?
So apparently I chose to end this cycle with an explosion of white supremacy, xenophobia, and misogyny in my country. What does this tell me? It tells me I was getting complacent in my spiritual bubble, my nest of an office where I work one on one with people, and then drive home in my bubble at night. All amazing and wonderful people I assure you, with expansive and loving hearts. Yet, this week tells me that's not enough; not enough risk, not enough speaking out, not enough support for vulnerable communities.
This past year for me has been about finding certainty in my one on one work with my clients, and bigger yet has been the exponential expansion of my apprenticeship group. These people are not only looking to grow and expand their personal spiritual experience, but to also find community with people who are also committed to looking at their whole self. That means the shadow as well as the light.
Community has been a challenge for me my whole life. The word community has been in the center of my mesa for 3 years now because I knew that in order to move forward I needed to figure out my issues with community. For many years I have said, "I'm not a joiner." Why? Because I believe that organizations prioritize the survival of the organization over the good of everyone involved. Is that right or wrong? I am guessing it depends on what the price is to the community it is serving.
So my question to myself as I launch myself into this 50th trip around the sun (at 11:56pm tonight) is how do I hold the foundation of the community that is asking me to create the space, opportunity, time, etc without it coming at the price of the highest good?
I went into my surgery confident and comfortable that I knew what to expect and that I was making the right choice for myself, my body, and my family.
I know that I annoyed the anesthesiologist because I asked to be positioned while awake. I know that this is not SOP. I have been in the OR, and it's typical to get drugs in pre-op that help you relax and also have the added "benefit" of being an amnesiac effect. He resisted my request, but ultimately I prevailed. (You see I have a torn meniscus in my right knee that I am choosing not to have surgery on. It's been that way for years, and if moved in a certain way it will mechanically lock.) My last conscious memory after getting into the stirrups and lying back on the OR table was the searing heat of the anesthesia making its way up my left arm and into my chest. I remember swearing loudly as I lost consciousness.
My next experience was waking up, if you can call it that, in post-op saying, "I am going to throw up!" My body wanting to rid itself of the toxic experience of this anesthesia. My second thought was, "I have a thousand bees in my vagina." I just wanted to turn on my side and pull my knees to my chest. I ask my nurse if I can do this and she says that I have to remain on my back. I am receiving shots in my IV to stop the vomiting and they just want me to stay where I am. Now, I have had 3 laparoscopies to deal with endometriosis over the years, so I thought I had a good idea of what I would feel like afterward. I was so completely unprepared for the experience.
My third thought was, "I feel a huge void in my pelvis." I have plenty of friends who have had hysterectomies, gone through the grief process, and a shift in perspective over the years. I have struggled to learn and accept myself through 5 years of Peri-menopause. I am not certain if it was ego or busyness, but I was unprepared for the grief surrounding the void. It hit me like a ton of bricks. A part of my body that had defined my existence and informed not only my personal but professional life for so long was gone. Taking with it the energy that it generated so willingly and lovingly for all of my life. I hadn't realized how much that gentle feminine energy was sourced directly from the cellular makeup of the organ itself.
I was sad, and in a morphine haze. I don't like morphine by the way, it never makes the pain better or different, it just makes me itchy and groggy but I can't fall asleep. I was feeling a ton of pressure in my vagina (BTW, I have said the word vagina more in the last 2 months than I have in the last 10 years, and I am a sex educator! LOL) So much pressure, contrasted with this huge emptiness just above it. The void alone made me want to throw up and cry at the same time.
I came home the following day and climbed into my own bed grateful for the privacy. I was exhausted and grateful to be in my sacred space of rest and solitude. Maybe I could find peace there.
Much to my dismay, I didn't get my period until I was 15. I was a "Late Bloomer."When you are an adolescent girl that seems like an eternity. EVERYONE else has theirs, why not me? What's wrong with me?
From there the relationship with my hormone cycles only became more complex. How to keep it concealed when I was having it? Do I get PMS? (Thanks culture for making me paranoid of having cycles of emotions.) What to do about birth control? Some work better than others, but what if those some seem to have negative impact on my body, libido, and emotions? What's this crazy intense pain I am getting now? I have endometriosis? I have severely reduced chance of getting pregnant if I want? But I am only 25, I have to decide now? I have to have surgery again? Why am I bleeding all of the time? If it's so hard for me to get pregnant, how did it happen while using birth control?
I don't think I am alone in this journey through my years of fertility as a woman, but from what I can see right now, I don't believe it ends when your period ends. On April 30th, 2016 I started what would become my last period ever in this body. On May 3rd I had a hysterectomy. They ended up having to also take my left ovary as it was encapsulated in endometriosis.
I consider myself a decently educated person, and certainly educated about female sexuality, as I am a community sexual health educator for Planned Parenthood and teach my own class for women; Sacred, Spirited, and Sexy. I will tell you that I thought that the journey through hysterectomy and healing would be a breeze because I knew what to expect and I do my personal work on things. It hasn't been, and I definitely felt blindsided.
I am learning so much about myself, my body, and my spiritual journey. I hope that you will join me as I unpack these experiences through my next few blog posts.
My grandfather was always an angry man. As far back as I can remember he was mad about something, even his sense of humor was bitter. Behind his back we called him Grumpa.
When I was five years old, just prior to starting kindergarten, I flew by myself to visit my grand parents in southeastern Missouri. I was so excited to fly for the first time and I felt so grown up going all by myself. While I was visiting many wonderful and interesting things happened, as well as several horrible events. My grandfather raped me, forever altering the course of my life, that was all I would remember about this trip for decades to come.
Several times in the last week I have had conversations with clients about being complete with people in their lives. When I talk about this the fear always comes up that being complete means that they must then cut this person out of their lives forever, this does not have to be the case.
Being complete, for me, means that I/we no longer live from the old story. When my grandfather became very ill and it appeared that death was eminent I knew that I needed to be complete with him before he transitioned. I didn't want to lose the opportunity to put this completely to rest. (Note: I had done much work on my own, in group therapy, and with a counselor in order to reach this place. My immediate family had also chosen to distance themselves from him as a result of my coming out about my experience.) An amazing friend of mine (my beloved Desirae) bought us two plane tickets to Idaho and off we went. My parents were already there and picked us up at the airport. As soon as I walked in the door of my grandparents home my grandfather walked up to me all puffed chest and loud voiced, "we're going to the back bedroom to have this out, you & I!"
I calmly replied to him that I had nothing to hide or be ashamed of and we would have all conversation right there in the living room with everyone present. He deflated, his old ways were no longer going to work. That is how he had always dictated this family, intimidation. We all sat down in the living room together and I said to him, "I know what happened, you know what happened, there is no question. I am here to tell you that I forgive you, I forgive myself, and I am no longer willing to live the way we have for the last 25 years." It was one of the scariest moments of my life. I felt as though all of the air had gone out of the room. He crumbled, he cried, and we all hugged.
Desirae and I were staying in a nearby hotel for another couple of days and my parents would drop us off in the evening, and pick us up in the morning. Each morning there were stories of his anger, his manipulation, his intimidation. Each day that we spent with him he was kind, polite, and considerate of me. We had well and truly changed our story with each other. It was as though he could no longer be his old story because I could no longer see him as he had been. By contrast those who still told their old story continued to experience his old self.
He actually went on to live another 7 months, and through it all we remained at peace. When he died I was able to attend his funeral with ease and true grief. On the other hand, my mother (who had suffered much at his whim) experienced relief at his passing. Her first words after his last breath were, "he can never again hurt anyone."
So the truth is we get to chose. We get to choose the stories we will live, We get to choose when and how to be complete with our past and even our present.
Live Your Heart Out Loud!
Shamanic Coach, Kansas City, MO
Magical Kansas City!
The things I don't want to look at right now...
What writing last weeks post has shown me is that there are so many reasons I "believed" I was justified in hiding. A huge one (literally) was my weight. The vast majority of my life I have not truly had to worry about my weight. (I wish I could tell that to my anorexic self 20 years ago.) I have had periods of slightly up, slightly down, but mostly in a specific range. Well, the last 4 years that hasn't been so. It began as a slow climb and then in the last year it was like a snowball gaining momentum. I felt like I was losing my sanity. My body was so unfamiliar. My fear of being seen was intense. Months ago I had a client come to see me that hadn't been in for probably 5 years, and seeing their reaction to my physical self was painful and healing all in the same moment. I knew that they were only reflecting to me my own self judgement.
I can clearly see how I was keeping myself caught in my own trap of my bullshit story. As though what I have to say or my wisdom is somehow tainted by the fact that my weight had changed. I refused to let John take pictures with me in them. I was the "family photographer." I posted everything but myself all over my fb page. I didn't want to attend family/friends gatherings, parties, celebrations. I was busy, tired, booked, etc. I was afraid they would see me.
I knew that the hiding had to come to an end if I wanted to go farther in my life, my work, my spiritual path. I had to let go of the shame and be seen. So in March I had professional photos taken. I was using photos over 5 years old on my website, and I feel that's deceptive. I even posted the new photos on fb. Probably a non-event for most of you who know me, but it was a huge emotional risk for me.
I know that this is all a reflection of me saying more loudly and more consistently to the world what truly makes my heart sing. My fear that upon seeing my truth I will be ridiculed and judged by the world at large and, more scarily, people I care about. This is my small way of saying, "that's okay, I love myself anyway."
Live Your Heart Out Loud!
Phoenix Kansas City Coach, Shaman, & Teacher